Standard & Poor's officially downgrades U.S. debt

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange as concerns about the health of the American economy continue grow.

Kai Ryssdal talks with Marketplace New York bureau chief Heidi Moore and CNBC's John Carney about the breaking news of the afternoon: Standard & Poor's decision to officially downgrade U.S. long-term debt from AAA status to AA+.

Here's how Moore explained it:

Heidi Moore: They downgraded the U.S. credit rating. It's like cutting our credit score. We went from a AAA to a AA+ -- which is more than people expected; people thought we'd just be a AA. The importance of this is largely psychological -- we've always been a AAA country. But now that we are a AA+, that's what everyone else will be too. I think everyone else will follow us.

Carney agreed that other countries would be downgraded as well:

John Carney: Remember, we're the country that supports people when they get in trouble. If our credit rating is lower, so is everybody else's.

To stay optimistic:

Moore: The same way they say 'Age ain't nothing but a number,' a credit rating ain't nothing but a letter.

For more analysis, click "Listen to this story" at the top of the page.

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